Jacks host Indiana Hoosiers

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

Led by their 6-foot-7 center, the “sensational seven” from Indiana will make history when they invade the Rabbit Den March 22.

South Dakota State will host the Indiana Hoosiers in third-round Women’s National Invitation Tournament play. The 7 p.m. match-up marks the first time the Jacks host a Big Ten Conference school.

On March 19, Indiana defeated Iona College, 74-71, in Bloomington, Ind. As a reward, the Hoosiers won an opportunity to play in front of 6,000 screaming Jackrabbit fans. Tickets for the game have been sold out since 4 p.m., March 19.

Indiana ended the season in eighth place in the Big Ten Conference, with an overall record of 19-13 and a 6-9 road record on the season. The Hoosiers have not played outside of the state of Indiana since Feb. 25.

Indiana is led by junior guard Nikki Smith and 6-foot-7 senior center Sarah McKay. SDSU Head Coach Aaron Johnston admitted that SDSU does not have anybody who quite matches the size of McKay, who was nominated to the All-Big Ten Third Team.

While the players on the SDSU roster are shorter than McKay, the Jacks are not timid. SDSU junior forward Courtney Grimsrud said they’ll battle McKay the same way they battled the 6-foot-5 center from Illinois State.

“(We’ll) box out real hard, play good defense fronting the post, and try to use our hopefully quicker feet … (we’ll) turn and face (her) and then go around,” Grimsrud said.

Backup center Laura Nielsen said the team invited guys to practice against them all season, and one of the guys is 6-foot-7. She said the team is used to a 6-foot-7 wingspan.

Due to injuries and academic reasons, Indiana only has seven players. Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack calls her seven players the “sensational seven.”

“We have a great seven kids who really work hard. Seven will have to be enough,” she said.

If Indiana gets into foul trouble, or any injuries occur, it will have a very thin bench. The Jacks look to exploit the undermanned Hoosiers.

“I think it’s going to be a huge factor for us, especially with running the floor and getting up and down … knowing they only play seven to eight people, and we play 10, so we have three or four more bodies,” freshman forward Maria Boever said.

Johnston had a more somber approach to the depleted Hoosier bench.

“I don’t expect it to be a big issue at all,” he said. “They are a very resilient team” and they “play with energy throughout entire game.”

Besides having a deeper team, another advantage SDSU has is the crowd noise, which will come in full-force.

Legette-Jack believes the hometown Jackrabbit fans will have an impact on the game. She called the crowd SDSU’s sixth man, while her team only has seven players in total.

In addition to facing “six” SDSU players, the Hoosiers may have another disadvantage – fatigue.

The Hoosiers play a very up-tempo type of play and like to run. All the Indiana players log lots of minutes. If somebody needs a rest, gets in foul trouble or has an off night, Indiana does not go three, or even two deep in some positions, like center.

The Hoosiers hail from the Big Ten, so they are used to playing in front of big crowds. The Jackrabbit fans may not be able to rattle the Hoosiers.

“There really isn’t a whole lot that we can do to throw somebody like Indiana off their game,” Johnston said.

Indiana may be used to playing in front of big crowds, but luckily for the SDSU faithful, IU is not very successful against them.

On Feb. 25, the Hoosiers lost to Penn State in front of 6,398 fans. On Dec. 3, Indiana traveled to in-state rival Notre Dame and lost in front of 9,494 fans. In fact, when Indiana plays away from Bloomington with teams having more than 4,000 fans, Indiana’s record is 3-7. When the opposing team had more than 5,700 fans, the attendance at the Jacks’ last game, the Hoosiers won only once, while losing three games to hostile crowds.

SDSU and Indiana have never meet in their respective schools’ history before, but the women’s basketball teams do share common opponents for the 2006-2007 year.

Both teams faced Kansas, Minnesota and Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne. SDSU and Indiana both beat Kansas and IPFW. The Hoosiers beat IPFW by one point, while the Jacks annihilated IPFW by 52 points. Indiana split season series with the Gophers, losing at Minnesota, while SDSU defeated the Gophers in Minneapolis, Minn.

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